The brown bear hunt in Game Management Units 7 and 15 on the Kenai Peninsula will resume Thursday for both drawing- and registration-permitted hunters.
The season will run through November, unless six adult female brown bears are killed, said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist for The Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“The department was willing to listen to the public about increasing opportunities (to harvest brown bears) while working within their guidelines … of not taking too many sows,” said Bob Ermold, Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee vice chair.
He said it was a “really cooperative conversation.”
The season temporarily closed Oct. 10 by Fish and Game emergency order when 11 adult female brown bears were reported killed. The total deaths surpassed the department’s management objective of 10 adult female deaths.
Because many adult female brown bears — especially those pregnant or with cubs — will have denned before the hunt resumes, boars will be the majority of brown bears available for harvest during the later wave of the season, Selinger said.
He said it is an effective way to increase the public’s opportunity to hunt while also protecting the brown bear populations.
“It is a pretty safe time for taking males and not females,” said Ted Spraker, acting chair of the Board of Game.
The temporary closure also gave Fish and Game biologists time to reflect on the numbers of harvested brown bears. Since Jan. 1, biologists counted 33 brown bear deaths; 11 of those deaths were adult female bears, Selinger said.
With the second wave of the fall season, Fish and Game will effectively switch to a three-year running average to manage adult female brown bear deaths, Selinger said.
The management strategy in place before only granted 10 adult female brown bear deaths per season, which is why the season temporarily closed, he said.
Spraker said the Board of Game intended to pass the three-year running average in a 2012 January statewide Board of Game meeting, but their intent was lost in a series of communication errors.
The new management strategy allows for 30 adult female brown bear deaths in a three-year period, Selinger said.
Last season six adult females were killed, and the season before five were killed, Selinger said.
Those 11 total deaths are then added to the 2012 season’s 11 adult female deaths, resulting in 22 adult female deaths for the three-year management period.
Although that three-year average leaves eight adult female brown bear deaths for the remainder of the season, Spraker said capitalizing on all eight could impact following hunting seasons.
“Here’s the down side of it,” he said, citing an example of a three-year adult female harvest. “Six the first year; 19 the next year. That’s 25. Then the next year you only get five.”
But, Spraker thinks it is a good system, he said. “It covers the low years, and it corrects things in the really high years,” he said.
Selinger agrees with Spraker’s rationale. He said that is why Fish and Game is setting the limit to six adult reproductive brown bear deaths for the remainder of the season.
“We think we’re allowing quite a bit more opportunity this year than we have had in the past,” he said.
After the fall brown bear hunting season ends, Selinger said there will be a multi-agency meeting to discuss a better plan to manage brown bear harvests on the Peninsula.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org